This week started on the brittle side, with stocks giving back a bit of ground after the holiday rally. Now's a great time to talk a little more about yield and how much to lock in to smooth the way between bull runs.
While calculating our overall performance we noticed that the entire BMR universe generates 2.7% a year in dividends. That's a little better than Treasury yields . . . a nice bonus, but far from the reason we recommend most of these companies.
After all, only about half of our recommendations pay dividends at all. The other half are entirely about stock performance, which has been good but remains a volatile proposition. Even though we're optimistic about companies like Amazon (AMZN: $1,952, flat yesterday) in the long term, we just don't know where it will drift in any given season. In the meantime, it has never handed shareholders back a single cent in dividends.
But if you're looking for more income, simply sticking to the BMR stocks that do pay a dividend will deliver a stronger cash return, year in and year out. A portfolio built out of these recommendations will screen out the entire Aggressive and Technology groups along with quite a few Special Opportunities and big names like Amazon. On the other hand, you'll keep access to Microsoft (MSFT: $137, flat) and Apple (AAPL: $200, down 2%) along with all the High Yield and REIT groups and most of our Healthcare recommendations as well.
An equal weighted "dividend only" BMR portfolio pays 5% a year, which is enough to fuel a lot of basic retirement income plans. The stocks themselves are still volatile to provide additional upside in the good years while that 5% yield goes a long way to buffer the downswings. So far this year, for example, our yield recommendations are up 17% in addition to dividends (19.5% total YTD return). Last year, while they dropped 6% (holding up 2% better than the S&P 500), the dividends repaired all but 1% of that loss.
If last year is the worst we see in a typical decade, that's a reasonable downside limit to endure in between the big bull runs. However, if you're looking for additional consistency and bigger quarterly checks, sticking to the High Yield and REIT portfolios is a good way to even out the ups and downs. That side of the BMR universe collectively pays 7% a year. That's enough to absorb most of the downside of a bad year (down a net 1% in 2018, again a lot better than the broad market's loss) and the stocks themselves are still vibrant enough to rebound 10% YTD.
We admit that 10% in six months plus 3.5% back in cash is not spectacular compared to the broad market's 19% surge over the same period, not to mention our more aggressive recommendations. That's all right. Remember, these stocks are all about giving up some upside in order to buy more certainty. We suggest allocating as much of your capital as necessary to High Yield and REIT to make sure your cash flow needs are met. From there, move up the risk ladder and reach for bigger wins.